Book Talk: A Man of Shadows by Jeff Noon

We're just getting back into the usual rhythm of things here after the brilliant insanity of our first birthday celebrations and the November boxes as well as our announcement that we're only going to be buying independently published books in 2018! To help out anybody who's interested in joining us in our quest to make more of our reading indie we're making a concerted effort to remember to talk about all the amazing books we read here!

Jeff Noon is a fairly prolific writer but despite seeing his books around the SFF section of bookshops for years I'd never actually read anything by him until we were sent A Man of Shadows to consider for the box. Although it didn't make my heart and brain do the elusive ping they have to do to get a book in the box it was a very enjoyable read and you're likely to see it in a future Ninja Book Club poll (please vote for it if you do because I think it would make a great discussion!).

From the blurb:

This is a city unlike any other, one half held in perpetual daylight, the other in permenant darkness. Below the neon skies of Dayzone, where the lights never go out, and night has been banished, lowly private eye John Nyquist takes on a teenage runaway case. His quest takes him from Dayzone into the blackness of the city's other side, Nocturna.

As a vicious, seemingly invisible serial killer the press have named Quicksilver haunts the streets, Nyquist starts to suspect that the runaway girl holds within her the key to the city's fate. In the end, there's only one place left to search: the shadow-choked zone known as Dusk.

The main part of the story revolves around Eleanor Bale, the teenage runaway Nyquist is finding when the book begins. As the story progresses it becomes increasingly obvious that nothing is what it seems and I thought the story was very well worked out.

For me the most fascinating thing about A Man of Shadows was the world building. In both Dayzone and Nocturna the real sky is no longer visible, it has been replaced by lamps which enable permenant daylight or permanent darkness and I found the ideas that are played with throughout the book of the kinds of people who are drawn to one or the other to be really interesting. In this world there are also hundreds of different chronologies, and each person can have their own personal timeline, or even several. Along with the action of the story, Jeff Noon is also asking questions about what happens when we operate on our own time rather than a shared construct of what time means - how do we stay connected to each other if we don't even share the same time?

John Nyquist is the type of character I really enjoy. Grumpy, solitary, grappling with his own issues... He's the kind of character who can't give up on a problem once it's got hold of him, and pursues it right to the end...

All in all A Man of Shadows is a really enjoyable read which asks some very compelling questions about the essence of time, and what love and loss really mean.

Many thanks to Angry Robot Books for providing a copy of this book for consideration and review purposes.

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